It cost $13,000,000 dollars to build The Gateway Arch in St. Louis between 1963 and 1965. The museum below it became outdated and a new entrance was perceived as needed. I was told that the upgrades completed in 2018 cost $230,000,000. Ruth and I waited a year to see what had been done and spent a spring day in 2019 visiting The Arch and other attractions near it. I liked the austere, gleamingly white new interior but could not see where all that money went. Keep in mind that we grew up in St. Louis and spent a lot of time in the old facility. If you have never seen the Arch, go. It’s an engineering and aesthetic marvel. If you’ve already been there, you might, like me, be focused on how all that money had been spent. In my opinion, the updated museum will be one of those places many will walk through and admire but remember little about.
If you go, plan to spend 3 to 5 hours if it’s a weekend or beautiful day, and if you want to go up in The Arch it will probably take longer. The new museum is free but if you add a riverfront cruise and watch the movie, plan to spend more than $30 per person. Going to the top of The Arch is a fine but confined experience. The movie being shown is the award-winning but old Monument to the Dream. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth $7. If you have, you might judge the price a bit high. It’s all relative. I once took a non-relative from Australia back to The Arch to ride to the top. It was the #1 thing he wanted to do in St. Louis, and I asked the staff what would be the ideal time to return. We almost didn’t make it to the top the 2nd time either. I had to beg for mercy to get tickets and did.
The new museum claims to tell more than 200 years of history in 6 interactive galleries and several hundred artifacts. My favorite exhibit was an 18th century riverboat-filled diorama. My favorite story told the sad tale of Marie Chouteau. Married at 15 and abandoned after the birth of her 1st child, Marie had 4 more out-of-wedlock children with Pierre Laclede. The other exhibits cover colonial times, Thomas Jefferson’s vision, the Manifest Destiny that propelled people westward, and the building of The Arch. After these, visitors come to the ascent-to-the-top area of the “tallest human-built monument in the United States” according to the National Park Service brochure. While under construction, it was not known if the rising legs would meet or if they could withstand wind. Such a structure had never been tried before. It was quite a feat and Eero Saarinen’s design was 1 of 172 entries.
Gateway Arch National Park is within easy walking distance of 4 worthy attractions. The Old Cathedral is worth a look. For St Louisans the New Cathedral is on Lindell Blvd. and is far older than a century. The Australian mentioned above’s wife judged the new cathedral her favorite St. Louis attraction and went twice. Be warned, The Old Courthouse is scheduled to be closed soon for a major overhaul. The Arch grounds are beautiful on a nice day, but St. Louis has hot and humid summers and often unpleasant winters. The Mississippi River flowing by is very impressive and usually over its banks in the spring when Ruth & I were there to see the new Arch Museum.